US COVID-19 Cases Exceed 25 Million

A coronavirus test site worker on site to answer questions from people arriving at a testing center in Los Angeles, California on December 16, 2020. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP)

 

More than 25 million Covid-19 cases have been recorded in the United States since the pandemic began, Johns Hopkins University said Sunday, just days after President Joe Biden’s inauguration.

The milestone was reached only five days after the US, the world’s wealthiest and hardest-hit nation, recorded 400,000 deaths from the disease.

Biden has made fighting the coronavirus a priority and is pushing for Congress to approve a $1.9-trillion relief package that would include billions of dollars to boost vaccination rates.

Biden has said he wants 100 million people vaccinated within his first 100 days in office, and he has called for Americans to wear masks for 100 days.

READ ALSO: Nigeria’s COVID-19 Cases Surge Past 120,000 As NCDC Confirms 1,633 New Infections

Countries around the world are in a race against time to get their populations inoculated before the coronavirus mutates into a strain that could resist newly approved vaccinations.

Vivek Murthy, Biden’s nominee for surgeon-general, told ABC News on Sunday that 100 million doses in 100 days was “a floor, not a ceiling” and cautioned about new strains.

“The variants are very concerning,” Murthy told the network.

“It’s up to us to adapt and stay ahead,” he added.

The US caseload remains by far the highest in absolute terms.

India, where the population is about four times larger than in the US, has the second-highest caseload with about 10.6 million cases, according to Johns Hopkins.

After the first Covid-19 case was reported in the US in January 2020 it took until late April for the figure to pass one million. The overall number of cases has followed an almost exponential curve upwards since then.

Last week, Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins announced more than 400,000 people in the US had died from Covid-19, a grim marker that came one day before Biden’s inauguration.

AFP

Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, Says Trump Ban Sets ‘Dangerous’ Precedent

In this photo illustration, a Twitter logo is displayed on a mobile phone with President Trump’s Twitter page shown in the background on May 27, 2020, in Arlington, Virginia. (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP)

 

Twitter chief Jack Dorsey on Wednesday backed the messaging platform’s ban of US President Donald Trump but said it sets a “dangerous” precedent and represents a failure to promote healthy conversation on social networks.

“Having to ban an account has real and significant ramifications,” Dorsey said in a string of tweets about his take on the company’s decision late last week to permanently bar the president.

“While there are clear and obvious exceptions, I feel a ban is a failure of ours ultimately to promote healthy conversation,” Dorsey said, inviting feedback from users.

Trump’s access to social media platforms that he used as a megaphone during his presidency has been largely cut off since a violent mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol in Washington last week.

In addition to Twitter, bans have also been put in place by Facebook, Instagram, Twitch, and Snapchat, while YouTube temporarily suspended his channel.

However, Twitter was the Republican billionaire’s go-to tool, which he used to directly communicate on a daily basis with some 88 million followers, posting everything from proclamations to accusations and spreading misinformation via the platform.

Social media operators say the embittered leader could have used his accounts to foment more unrest in the run-up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.

On Monday, Twitter took things one step further, announcing it had also suspended “more than 70,000 accounts” linked to the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory that claims Trump is waging a secret war against a global liberal cult of Satan-worshipping pedophiles.

Overdue or overdone?

Twitter’s decision to permanently suspend Trump is considered overdue by critics who argue he has gotten away with abuses but has worried free-speech advocates and drawn criticism from various NGOs and leaders.

The company said in a blog post explaining its decision that after close review of the president’s recent tweets it had “permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence.”

Twitter also blocked efforts by Trump to sidestep the ban of his @realDonaldTrump account when he posted tweets from the official presidential account @POTUS and the @TeamTrump campaign account.

“We understand the desire to permanently suspend him now,” ACLU senior legislative counsel Kate Ruane said at the time.

“But, it should concern everyone when companies like Facebook and Twitter wield the unchecked power to remove people from platforms that have become indispensable for the speech of billions.”

Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel weighed in, stating Monday through her spokesman that she believed freedom of opinion should not be determined by “the management of social media platforms.”

Dorsey said Wednesday that while he believes Twitter made the right decision to ban Trump, it “sets a precedent I feel is dangerous: the power an individual or corporation has over a part of the global public conversation.”

“This moment in time might call for this dynamic, but over the long term it will be destructive to the noble purpose and ideals of the open internet,” he said.

Dorsey rejected the notion that social media giants coordinated efforts, reasoning that it was more likely they each came to the same conclusion about the potential for violence.

Snipped by Snapchat

Image-centric social network Snapchat on Wednesday became the latest platform to permanently ban Trump.

“Last week we announced an indefinite suspension of president Trump’s Snapchat account,” the platform told AFP.

“In the interest of public safety, and based on his attempts to spread misinformation, hate speech, and incite violence, which are clear violations of our guidelines, we have made the decision to permanently terminate his account.”

The actions by social media companies angered ardent defenders of Trump, who was impeached by the House of Representatives on Wednesday for inciting “insurrection.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a longtime Trump ally, demanded that major tech platforms explain why Trump is no longer welcome.

Removal of the president and others by multiple platforms, he said, “silences those whose speech and political beliefs do not align with leaders of Big Tech companies.”

AFP

YouTube Suspends Trump Channel For A Week Over Violence Fears

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the press in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on November 20, 2020 in Washington, DC. U.S.  Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images/AFP

 

Google-owned YouTube on Tuesday temporarily suspended President Donald Trump’s channel and removed a video for violating its policy against inciting violence, joining other social media platforms in banning his accounts after last week’s Capitol riot.

Trump’s access to the social media platforms he has used as a megaphone during his presidency has been largely cut off since a violent mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol in Washington DC last week.

Operators say the embittered leader could use his accounts to foment more unrest in the run-up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.

“In light of concerns about the ongoing potential for violence, we removed new content uploaded to Donald J. Trump’s channel for violating our policies,” YouTube said in a statement.

The channel is now “temporarily prevented from uploading new content for a ‘minimum’ of 7 days,” the statement read.

The video-sharing platform also said it will be “indefinitely disabling comments” on Trump’s channel because of safety concerns.

Facebook last week suspended Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts following the violent invasion of the US Capitol, which temporarily disrupted the certification of Biden’s election victory.

In announcing the suspension last week, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg said Trump used the platform to incite violent and was concerned he would continue to do so.

Twitter went a step further by deleting Trump’s account, depriving him of his favorite platform. It was already marking his tweets disputing the election outcome with warnings.

The company also deleted more than 70,000 accounts linked to the bizarre QAnon conspiracy theory, which claims, without any evidence, that Trump is waging a secret war against a global cabal of satanist liberals.

Trump also was hit with suspensions by services like Snapchat and Twitch.

The president’s YouTube account has amassed 2.77 million subscribers.

The home page of the Trump channel featured a month-old video of Trump casting doubt on the voting process in November’s presidential election, and had logged some 5.8 million views.

On Tuesday, an activist group called on YouTube to join other platforms in dumping Trump’s accounts, threatening an advertising boycott campaign.

AFP

US Carries Out First Federal Execution Of Woman In Decades

 

 

An American woman who murdered a pregnant dog breeder in order to steal her baby was put to death by lethal injection Wednesday, becoming the first female to be executed by US federal authorities in nearly seven decades.

The US Justice Department said Lisa Montgomery, 52, was pronounced dead at 1:31 am Eastern Time (0631 GMT) at a penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana.

It said the execution was “in accordance with the capital sentence unanimously recommended by a federal jury and imposed by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri”.

The US Supreme Court cleared the way for Montgomery’s execution just hours earlier — despite doubts about her mental state — after the government of President Donald Trump had pushed for the application of the death penalty.

Montgomery’s defenders did not deny the seriousness of her crime: in 2004, she killed a pregnant 23-year-old in order to steal her baby.

But her lawyer Kelley Henry, in a statement, called the decision — the first for a female inmate since 1953 — a “vicious, unlawful, and unnecessary exercise of authoritarian power.”

“The craven bloodlust of a failed administration was on full display tonight,” Henry said. “Everyone who participated in the execution of Lisa Montgomery should feel shame.”

The execution came after a legal back-and-forth that ended with the country’s highest court allowing it to proceed.

Unable to have a child, Montgomery carefully identified her victim — 23-year-old dog breeder Bobbie Jo Stinnett — online.

Under the guise of buying a puppy, Montgomery went to Stinnett’s home, where she strangled her and cut the baby from her body.

In 2007 she was convicted of kidnapping resulting in death and handed a death sentence.

Her defenders believe that she suffered from severe mental health issues stemming from abuse she suffered as a child. She did not understand the meaning of her sentence, they said, a prerequisite for execution.

On Monday evening, a federal judge offered the defense a brief lifeline, ordering a stay of execution to allow time to assess Montgomery’s mental state.

“The record before the Court contains ample evidence that Ms. Montgomery’s current mental state is so divorced from reality that she cannot rationally understand the government’s rationale for her execution,” the ruling stated.

But an appeals court overturned that decision on Tuesday, leaving it up to the US Supreme Court to decide. It said the execution could go ahead.

– Clemency plea ignored –
Trump, like his many of his conservative constituents, is a strong supporter of the death penalty and ignored a plea for clemency from Montgomery’s supporters.

Despite the decline of capital punishment in the US and around the world, Trump’s administration resumed federal executions in July after a 17-year hiatus and has been carrying them out at an unprecedented rate ever since.

Since the summer, 10 Americans have died by lethal injection in Terre Haute. In addition to Montgomery, two men are scheduled for federal execution this week. Their executions were stayed on Tuesday due to them having contracted Covid-19.

Democratic Senator Dick Durbin on Monday announced the introduction of legislation to end federal executions. It could be passed once president-elect Joe Biden takes office next week and Democrats regain control of the Senate.

In a scathing statement, Helen Prejean, a Catholic nun known for her activism against the death penalty, spoke over the weekend of federal prosecutors “working all day and through the nights” to counter the appeals of federal inmates.

“You may not have to see the fear or smell the sweat in the execution chamber, but your hand is in this,” Prejean wrote, urging them to “just say ‘no’ this week to working to get one woman and two men executed the week before the Inauguration” of Biden.

Former guards of the penitentiary in Terre Haute have written to the Justice Department to request that the executions be postponed until the penitentiary staff are vaccinated against Covid-19.

Between the executioners, guards, witnesses, and lawyers, an execution assembles dozens of people in a closed environment, which is conducive to the spread of the virus.

US states, including the deeply conservative Texas, have suspended executions for months due to the pandemic — unlike the federal government, which has pushed to carry out many before Trump leaves power.

AFP

Biden Urged To Renounce Sole Control Of US Nuclear Weapons

US President-elect Joe Biden delivers a Thanksgiving address at the Queen Theatre in Wilmington, Delaware, on November 25, 2020. CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP
File photo: US President-elect Joe Biden delivers a Thanksgiving address at the Queen Theatre in Wilmington, Delaware, on November 25, 2020. CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP

 

 

A former US defense secretary has called on President-elect Joe Biden to reform the system that gives sole control of the nation’s nuclear arsenal to the president, calling it “outdated, unnecessary and extremely dangerous.”

The call from William Perry came the same day US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke with the nation’s top military leader about ensuring that an “unhinged” President Donald Trump not be able to launch a nuclear attack in his final days in office.

“Once in office, Biden should announce he would share authority to use nuclear weapons with a select group in Congress,” said Perry, who served under President Bill Clinton.

He was writing in Politico magazine with Tom Collina of the Ploughshares Fund, which advocates for stronger nuclear controls.

They said Biden, who takes office January 20, should also declare that the United States will never start a nuclear war and would use the bomb only in retaliation.

The piece argues that the current system gives the president — any president — “the godlike power to deliver global destruction in an instant,” an approach the authors call “undemocratic, outdated, unnecessary and extremely dangerous.”

Perry, who was defense minister from 1994 to 1997, calls Trump “unhinged” and adds, “Do we really think that Trump is responsible enough to trust him with the power to end the world?”

American presidents are accompanied at all times by a military aide who carries a briefcase known as “the football” which contains the secret codes and information needed to launch a nuclear strike.

Perry and Collina warn that presidents possess the “absolute authority to start a nuclear war.

“Within minutes, Trump can unleash hundreds of atomic bombs, or just one. He does not need a second opinion. The Defense secretary has no say. Congress has no role.”

They then ask: “Why are we taking this risk?”

Such vast presidential authority, the article notes, dates from the waning days of World War II, when President Harry Truman decided, after the nuclear horror unleashed by the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, that the power to order the use of atomic weapons should not be left in the hands of the military — that it should be up to the president alone.

AFP

Democrats Forge Ahead To Impeach Trump, Again

Republican and Democrats clap as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) commends Capitol Police and law enforcement for their work after Pro-Trump demonstrators stormed the Capitol in the House chamber on January 6, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Pool/Getty Images/AFP
Republican and Democrats clap as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) commends Capitol Police and law enforcement for their work after Pro-Trump demonstrators stormed the Capitol in the House chamber on January 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Pool/Getty Images/AFP

 

US Democrats said Sunday they would push to remove President Donald Trump from office during the final days of his administration after his supporters’ violent attack on the Capitol, with some Republicans supporting the move.

Trump could face a historic second impeachment before the January 20 inauguration of Democrat Joe Biden, at a time when the United States is hit by a surging pandemic, a flagging economy, and searing division.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress, said there would be a resolution on Monday calling for the cabinet to remove Trump as unfit for office under the Constitution’s 25th amendment.

If Vice President Mike Pence does not agree to invoke the amendment, “we will proceed with bringing impeachment legislation” in the House, Pelosi said.

“As the days go by, the horror of the ongoing assault on our democracy perpetrated by this President is intensified and so is the immediate need for action,” she added.

Trump was already impeached once by the Democratic-controlled House in December 2019 for pressuring the Ukrainian president to dig up political dirt on Biden.

He was acquitted by the Republican-majority Senate.

Though time is running short, Democrats likely have the votes in the House to impeach Trump again and could draw increased Republican support for the move.

But they are unlikely to muster the two-thirds majority needed to convict Trump in the 100-member Senate and remove him from office.

‘Incitement to violence’

Authorities are seeking to arrest more Trump supporters who violently stormed the Capitol on Wednesday after the president held a rally outside the White House repeating false claims that he had lost the election to Biden due to fraud.

Trump’s immediate resignation “is the best path forward,” Republican Senator Pat Toomey told CNN on Sunday, adding, “That would be a very good outcome.”

Toomey said that since losing the November 3 vote, Trump had “descended into a level of madness and engaged in activity that was absolutely unthinkable, and unforgivable.”

Lisa Murkowski of Alaska was the first Republican senator to demand Trump’s resignation, saying, “I want him out.” House Republicans, including Adam Kinzinger on Sunday, have echoed that call.

The article of impeachment is set to charge Trump with inciting Wednesday’s violence, which left five people dead.

Hundreds of off-duty police on Sunday lined Constitution Avenue in Washington and saluted as a hearse rolled slowly by carrying the body of Brian Sicknick, the police officer who died in the attack on the Capitol.

Capitol security has been stepped up, with a seven-foot-tall (about two meters) black metal fence erected around the historic building. Extremists have threatened new action in the coming days both in Washington and state capitals.

Trump goes quiet

One reason Democrats might pursue conviction, even after Trump leaves office, is to prevent him from ever being able to run again for federal office.

The president is reportedly furious over Pence’s rejection of Trump’s vocal pressure to somehow intervene in the Congressional confirmation on Wednesday of the election result.

Trump has gone largely silent in recent days — making few statements and holding no news conferences. Twitter, his favored public platform, has banned him for language that could incite violence.

He plans to travel to Texas on Tuesday in one of his final trips as president to highlight his claims of building a border wall to keep immigrants from Mexico out of the US.

Senate rules mean the upper chamber would likely be unable to open an impeachment trial before January 19, and Toomey said he was unsure it was constitutionally possible to impeach someone once out of office.

Some Democrats, for their part, have expressed concern that a Senate trial would overshadow and hamper Biden’s efforts to quickly lay out his agenda, starting with the fight against the coronavirus and the need to support the economy.

“Let’s give President-elect Biden the 100 days” at the start of his term to deal with the most urgent issues, Democratic House whip James Clyburn told CNN.

“Maybe we’ll send the articles sometime after that.”

But Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a centrist Democrat whose vote could be crucial in the new, evenly divided Senate, told CNN an impeachment after January 20 “doesn’t make any common sense whatsoever.”

AFP

Biden To Receive Second COVID Vaccine Dose Monday

President-elect Joe Biden (L) receives a COVID-19 Vaccination from nurse practitioner Tabe Masa at ChristianaCare Christiana Hospital on December 21, 2020, in Newark, Delaware. Joshua Roberts/Getty Images/AFP

 

US President-elect Joe Biden will receive his second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine on Monday, his office announced, three weeks after his first injection was broadcast live on TV to boost public confidence in the jab.

Biden, 78, told Americans “there’s nothing to worry about” when he got his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at the Christiana Hospital in Newark, Delaware on December 21.

His team said that his second jab would also be done in front of the media, without giving further details.

More than 374,000 people have died from the coronavirus in America, and Biden on Friday slammed President Donald Trump’s administration’s troubled distribution of vaccines as a “travesty.”

About 6.7 million Americans have so far received their first shot — far short of the target of 20 million by the end of 2020.

But 22.1 million doses have been distributed nationwide, underlining the logistical challenge of getting the injections administered to the elderly and health workers who are the priority.

Both vaccines currently authorized in the US, developed by Pfizer and Moderna, require recipients to receive booster shots after three and four weeks, respectively.

Biden, who will be inaugurated on January 20, plans to release every available dose of vaccine, rather than holding back half to make sure people receive their booster shots on time as is the current protocol.

US Vice President Mike Pence To Attend Biden Inauguration – Reports

File photo of US Vice President Mike Pence. MANDEL NGAN / AFP

 

Mike Pence will attend the upcoming inauguration of Joe Biden, multiple media reports said Saturday, the vice president becoming the latest longtime loyalist to abandon an increasingly isolated President Donald Trump.

Relations between Trump and Pence — previously one of the mercurial president’s staunchest defenders — have nosedived since Wednesday when the vice president formally announced Biden’s victory in November’s election.

A mob of far-right demonstrators stormed the US Capitol the same day in a failed bid to stop Congress from certifying Biden’s win, in a riot blamed on Trump that left five dead.

Multiple media reports on Saturday cited senior administration officials as saying that Pence — who was forced to take shelter from the intruders during the riot — had decided to attend Biden’s inauguration on January 20.

The president-elect earlier in the week said Pence would be welcome at his formal swearing-in, due to take place in a scaled-down format due to the coronavirus.

“I think it’s important that as much as we can stick to what have been the historical precedents of how an administration changes should be maintained,” Biden told reporters.

“We’d be honored to have him there, and to move forward in the transition.”

In his final tweet before being removed from Twitter on Friday, Trump said he would not attend the inauguration.

The outgoing president has been accused of provoking Wednesday’s violence, and now faces an unprecedented second impeachment, expected to begin on Monday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned that Democrats would launch the process unless Trump resigned or Pence invoked the 25th Amendment, in which the cabinet removes the president from office.

While Pence has not spoken publicly on the subject, the New York Times reported Thursday he was against invoking the mechanism, never used before in US history.

Trump’s Impeachment Is For Congress To Decide, Says Biden

This combination of file pictures created on October 22, 2020 shows US President Donald Trump (L) and former Democratic Presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden during the final presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, on October 22, 2020. JIM WATSON, Morry GASH / AFP
This combination of file pictures created on October 22, 2020 shows US President Donald Trump (L) and former Democratic Presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden during the final presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, on October 22, 2020. JIM WATSON, Morry GASH / AFP

 

 

President-elect Joe Biden on Friday strongly indicated he does not back moves to impeach President Donald Trump, saying the quickest way to get him out of office is through the transition in two weeks.

“The quickest way that will happen is us being sworn in on the 20th,” said Biden, who will take the oath of office on January 20.

“What actually happens before or after, that is a judgment for the Congress to make. But that’s what I am looking forward to: him leaving office.”

Biden was addressing reporters in his hometown of Wilmington two days after Trump encouraged a mob of supporters to march on Congress.

Democratic leaders in Congress have growing momentum for attempting to impeach Trump for the second time in his presidency. There is little support so far among Republicans, although they too have loudly condemned Trump’s behavior.

This was Biden’s first extended reaction to the talk of impeaching Trump or trying to persuade Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th amendment removing the president from office.

Biden’s hesitancy to support his party on impeachment reflects the fact that he already faces a mammoth task in working to heal divisions in US society.

“We’re going to do our job and Congress can decide how to proceed,” Biden said.

“The idea that I think he shouldn’t be out of office yesterday is not an issue. The question is what happens with 14 days to go, 13 days left to go?”

15 Indicted By US Justice Department Over Capitol Violence

Police detain a person as supporters of US President Donald Trump’s protest outside the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. Demonstrators breached security and entered the Capitol as Congress debated the a 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification.
ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP

 

 

The US Justice Department announced Wednesday that it has indicted 15 people involved in the assault on Congress, including one man accused of possessing bombs made to act like “homemade napalm.”

The department said it had arrested several suspects, including Richard Barnett, a supporter of US President Donald Trump who invaded the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and another man found with 11 styrofoam-enhanced Molotov cocktails in his truck.

Others whose charges were unsealed include a man alleged to have entered the US Capitol with a loaded handgun, another who is accused of punching an officer, and a West Virginia state legislator who took part in storming the Congress, said Ken Cole, a federal prosecutor with the Washington US attorney’s office.

Cole said that not all the charges over Wednesday’s violence had been unsealed and that more were in the pipeline as the FBI investigates.

“This investigation has the highest priority,” he said, with “hundreds” of Justice Department investigators working the case.

More charges and arrests were expected.

Dozens of people were arrested and charged by local Washington police, but the charges announced by Cole Friday were on the federal level, and potentially carry heftier punishment.

But he said the FBI was not investigating anyone on possible “incitement” or “insurrection” charges.

Some people have called for Trump, his attorney Rudy Giuliani and others to be charged with incitement for openly encouraging the president’s supporters to take action just hours before the mob stormed the Capitol.

“We don’t expect any charges of that nature,” Cole said.

Biden Says Trump Decision To Skip Inauguration A ‘Good Thing’

President-elect Joe Biden introduces key foreign policy and national security nominees and appointments at the Queen Theatre on November 24, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. Mark Makela/Getty Images/AFP
President-elect Joe Biden introduces key foreign policy and national security nominees and appointments at the Queen Theatre on November 24, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. Mark Makela/Getty Images/AFP

 

US President-elect Joe Biden welcomed Donald Trump’s announcement on Friday that he won’t attend the January 20 inauguration, calling it a “good thing.”

“I was told on the way over here that he indicated he wasn’t going to show up at the inauguration,” Biden told reporters in Wilmington, Delaware.

“One of the few things he and I have ever agreed on,” Biden said. “It’s a good thing, him not showing up.”

“He’s been an embarrassment to the country,” Biden said.

“He’s not fit to serve,” the president-elect added of Trump, who is facing the possibility of being impeached next week for inciting his supporters to storm the US Capitol.

“He exceeded even my worst notions about him,” Biden said. “He’s one of the most incompetent presidents in the history of the United States of America.”

Biden said Vice President Mike Pence would be welcome at his inauguration.

Biden’s remarks came after Trump tweeted earlier Friday that he would not attend the inauguration.

“To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th,” Trump tweeted.

Biden Promises Economic Help Is On The Way

File photo: President-elect Joe Biden Mark Makela/Getty Images/AFP

 

US President-elect Joe Biden on Friday introduced the final members of his “worker power” economic team and pledged to provide more help for struggling families and small businesses.

Speaking just one day after lawmakers finally certified his election victory following the invasion of the US Capitol by supporters of outgoing president Donald Trump, Biden announced he would next week unveil a relief program for the pandemic-ravaged economy.

The far-reaching package including stimulus checks to taxpayers and an increase in the minimum wage will be a top priority for Biden, along with accelerating the Covid-19 vaccine rollout that he called “a travesty.”

“We need more direct relief flowing to families, small businesses, including finishing the job of getting people the $2,000 in relief direct payment,” he said.

The $600 stimulus checks included in an aid package Congress approved in late December “is simply not enough,” Biden said at an event in Wilmington, Delaware.

The Senate blocked an effort to increase the second round of stimulus payments to $2,000, but Biden said families are having “to choose between paying rent, putting food on the table (and) keeping the lights on.”

His team also will give special attention to small businesses, especially those owned by minorities, and provide “support to help them get through the other side of this crisis”

He lamented that under the Trump administration “big, well-connected businesses jumped in front of the line” to get aid, and vowed to tighten controls to prevent fraud.

In an aid package passed in December, Congress approved $284 billion for a second round of loans to small businesses via the Paycheck Protection Program, which are due to roll out starting next week.

Biden said money is needed to reopen schools safely, and also for state and local governments to retain teachers, police officers and firefighters.

With Democrats poised to take control of both houses of Congress following victories in two Senate runoff races in Georgia, Biden said he hopes to win support for increasing the US minimum wage to $15 an hour.

“I’ve long said that we need to reward work, not just wealth, in this country. People in both parties recognize it’s time to raise the minimum wage,” he said.

If confirmed by the Senate, the nominees he introduced Friday will play key roles in implementing his economic programs.

He named Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo as Commerce Secretary, Boston mayor and former union president Martin Walsh as Labor Secretary, and Isabel Guzman, a former official in Barack Obama’s administration, as Small Business Administration chief.

Raimondo would be involved in negotiating the aftermath of trade wars instigated by Trump, as well as in the ongoing debate over how to regulate tech giants.